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Overtown Plaza: Groundbreaking celebration

Comm. Hardemon and SEOPW CRA aligning dreams with reality

Carla St.Louis | 4/17/2014, 9 a.m.
Construction workers Charles Conley (left) and Frantz Fritz (second to right) pose with City of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, City of Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo and Nathaniel Joseph, business development and job coordinator for Southeast Overtown / Park West Community Redevelopment Agency at the redevelopment site for the Overtown Plaza.

Community and city leaders of Miami were on hand Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony to usher in a new era for the decades old Overtown Plaza.

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Miami's policy makers and more tipped off the ground breaking ceremony for the Overtown Plaza with a celebratory shoveling of dirt. (left to right) Leroy Jones of NANA, Brandyss Howard, City of Miami Commissioner Frank Carollo, City of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, City of Miami Commissioner Wilfredo "Willy" Gort, Josh Rodstein, Clarence Woods of CRA, Brian Zeltsman of City of Miami CRA.

The plaza, located at 1490 NW 3rd Avenue, will receive a new look and name as part of a million dollar makeover to spruce up the area and meet the needs of residents.

When completed, Top Value Supermarket, a major grocery chain, will anchor the shopping center with several new stores. The extensive renovations will also include new storefront windows, doors and canopies, along with an upgraded interior roof for the plaza.

City leaders hope the new look and changes will attract more commercial tenants.

The $1,350,000 in improvements were funded by The Southeast Overtown/ Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (SEOPW CRA), which owns the property, formerly known as the the Overtown Shopping Center.

The CRA specializes in eliminating slum and blight through redevelopment activities such as infrastructure upgrades, incentive programs to attract new businesses and support job initiatives to enhance the tax base of Overtown and Park West.

City Commissioners Keon Hardemon (District 5), Wilfredo “Willy” Gort (District 1) and Frank Carollo (District 3) joined residents and local business owners for the festive occasion.

“The CRA invested funds toward this project for the purpose of attracting new businesses, strengthening our existing businesses and creating a viable commercial corridor for both residents and visitors to shop and dine,” said Clarence Woods, executive director of the CRA.

In the past, there were no traditional supermarkets in the area, an oddity that forced many residents to shop at local convenience stores for necessities such as milk, eggs and other items. However there was nothing convenient about these groceries' prices, with many of the goods costing nearly twice as much as those at other grocery stores.

City leaders, through the inclusion of Top Value Supermarket, hopes the plaza's new addition will help reduce grocery bills for residents.

"This project is especially significant because it addresses Overtown's food desert, a complete depletion of affordable grocery stores," said Hardemon to a crowd of about 50 people. "In this region, the closest store to a grocer is a convenience store and they're merchandise is overpriced which is unacceptable considering this community's average income. The fact that we're able to renovate this plaza and bring in commercial business that specialize in food distribution is a tremendous success for Overtown. Residents won't have to shop for groceries at convenient stores."

Residents like Arnette Brown, 84, who was born and raised in Overtown couldn't be more happy about the store’s potential impact in her neighborhood.

"Something needed to be done," she said. "It's a blessing to have a super market within walking distances in our community."

Other policymakers, such as Commissioner Carollo, applauded the CRA and Hardemon's move to revamp Overtown.

“It’s crucial for developing areas with historical significance, like Overtown, to receive the support they need in order to preserve their history and flavor while keeping up with the times," said Commissioner Carollo. "Projects like the Overtown Plaza will contribute to the beautification of the area and the economic development of its businesses and its residents.”